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Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Redbridge MPs urge bishop to axe Catholic schools academisation plan

PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:09 20 February 2019

Clockwise from top left: MPs Lyn Brown, Stella Creasy, Jon Cruddas, Dame Margaret Hodge, Stephen Timms, Wes Streeting, John Cryer and Mike Gapes. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Images/ parliamentlivetv

Clockwise from top left: MPs Lyn Brown, Stella Creasy, Jon Cruddas, Dame Margaret Hodge, Stephen Timms, Wes Streeting, John Cryer and Mike Gapes. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Images/ parliamentlivetv

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Eight MPs have called on a church leader to axe plans to turn Catholic schools into academies.

The Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams with schoool children from St Bonaventure's and St antony's. Picture: ST BONAVENTURE'SThe Bishop of Brentwood Alan Williams with schoool children from St Bonaventure's and St antony's. Picture: ST BONAVENTURE'S

The letter sent on Friday to Rt Rev Alan Williams – the Bishop of Brentwood Diocese – was signed by Labour and Independent Group MPs representing Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

Jon Cruddas, Dame Margaret Hodge, Stephen Timms, Lyn Brown, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting, John Cryer and Stella Creasy urge Bishop Williams to scrap proposals to form a multi-academies trust (MAT).

It states: “We ask you to fully consider what would be lost by forming a Catholic MAT. There is ample evidence across the boroughs we represent of the positive influence and impact of local authority involvement – whether for admissions, buildings, expansion, SEND/Inclusion or School Improvement support – working in partnership with the Diocese.

“We believe there to be [a] strong case for remaining part of the local family of schools within our boroughs.

“The evidence suggests neither financial nor school improvement benefits necessarily accrue from academisation.”

The gang of eight urged that Catholic schools maintain links with the boroughs’ councils.

“In these difficult and demanding times for schools, we believe that alliances between longstanding partners such as our councils and Catholic education should be valued and strengthened,” the MPs’ letter states.

Catholic church leaders want to convert all the schools in the Dicoese into academies by this September. Under the plans the Diocese’s primaries and secondaries would combine to form Catholic Multi-Academy Trusts.

But they have faced opposition not only from MPs but anti-academies campaigners including parents.

On its website, the Diocese of Brentwood says tighter budgets and challenges from people hostile to Catholic education prompted the move that would lead to stronger collaboration between schools.

A Diocese of Brentwood Education Service spokeswoman said: “The Bishop’s decision to support the move to full academisation follows a consultation process started three years ago.

“This was done to safeguard the future of Catholic education in the Diocese and move in line with the government’s policy on academisation.

“The Diocese and schools consulted widely with both parents and staff and the proposals have proved largely popular.

“The academisation process is fully underway and we are working closely with the Department for Education and our Catholic schools, supporting them through this transition.”

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